Fall 2014

Panther Theory:  Reading Black Power

Listed in: Black Studies, as BLST-247

Moodle site: Course


John Erwin Drabinski (Section 01)


[US] What is the memory and legacy of the Black Panther Party? The Party is probably best known for its militant politics and iconic imagery:  guns, leather jackets, confrontations with the police, and often audacious forms of public protest.  We remember those politics and that imagery for good reason:  the Party’s organization and struggle galvanized communities beleaguered by poverty, police violence, and mass incarceration.  But it is important to also recall that the Black Panthers were an intellectual movement that theorized mobilization, forms of strategy, ideas of solidarity and collaboration, and armed self-defense out of close study of a wide range of both conventional and revolutionary thinkers. This course focuses on that element of the Party’s life, exploring the Black Panthers as an intellectual movement.  We will read key figures Huey P. Newton, Eldridge Cleaver, Elaine Brown, and Angela Davis with close attention to how they engage and transform canonical figures of Western philosophy like Socrates, Descartes, and G.W.F. Hegel, as well as revolutionary writers Karl Marx, V.I. Lenin, Che Guevara, Mao Tse-Tung, and Frantz Fanon.  We will also discuss how the Party related to the wider Black Power movement (especially Stokely Carmichael and Maulana Karenga) through public debates on political and cultural nationalism and internationalism.  Across our reading and discussion, we will have to think carefully about how Party social programs in nutrition, education, and healthcare emerged out of--and not just alongside or in addition to--militant political theory and action.  The class will work closely with the Amherst College Library, which houses an extensive collection of Black Power newspapers, original writings, and other materials in the College’s archive.

Fall semester.  Professor Drabinski.


2019-20: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2014